Hiding behind the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius is the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, over 25,000 light years away. This patch of sky is mostly dark in visible light, shrouded by dust clouds that lie between us and the Galactic center. But the infrared vision of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope sees through the dust showing us this strange and tumultuous region.
The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer
The image above of the central 5,500 light-years wide region of NGC 1097. More than 300 star forming regions - white spots in the image - are distributed along a ring of dust and gas. At the center is a bright central source where the active galactic nucleus and its super-massive black hole are located. About 40 thousand light-years from the larger galaxy's center, the gravity of the companion galaxy appears to be reshaping the larger galaxy as it is slowly being destroyed itself.
Near-infrared images of the active galaxy NGC 1097, obtained with the NACO adaptive optics instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, disclose with unprecedented detail a complex central network of filamentary structure spiralling down to the centre of the galaxy. These observations provide astronomers with new insights on how super-massive black holes lurking inside galaxies get fed.
Colour-composite image of the central 5,500 light-years wide region of the spiral galaxy NGC 1097, obtained with the NACO adaptive optics on the VLT. More than 300 star forming regions - white spots in the image - are distributed along a ring of dust and gas in the image. At the centre of the ring there is a bright central source where the active galactic nucleus and its super-massive black hole are located. The image was constructed by stacking J- (blue), H- (green), and Ks-band (red) images. North is up and East is to the left. The field of view is 24 x 29 arcsec2, i.e. less than 0.03% the size of the full moon!